12:00 PM | **Major Hurricane Florence headed towards Carolina coastline where it will grind to a halt**
Hurricane Florence remains a category 4 (major) storm at mid-day and is currently moving northwest at 15 mph and is headed for the Carolina coastline. It should arrive near the North and South Carolina border region by early Friday where it will become influenced by blocking upper-level high pressure to the north. As a result, Florence will slow down dramatically and drift southwestward along the Carolina coastline. By the latter part of the weekend, Florence is likely to push inland over South Carolina or Georgia and then eventually loop back around to the east. We may have to deal with Florence until the middle of next week before it likely finally exits off the US east coast - perhaps off of New Jersey.
The speed of Florence has dropped a little since this morning and it’ll drop significantly by the time the major hurricane reaches the Carolina coastline later in the week. Very strong high pressure ridging aloft will cause it to grind to a halt and push southwestward along the Carolina coastline which will result in an extended period of heavy rain and strong winds; especially, for coastal sections of the Carolinas. Some areas along the Carolina coastline could see more than 20 inches of rainfall over the next few days as Florence crawls along.
By the latter part of the weekend Florence is likely to push inland – as far south as South Carolina or Georgia – and then it’ll begin a loop first to th northwest then to the north and eventually to the northeast. It is possible that we may have to wait until the middle of next week for Florence to finally exit off the US east coast – perhaps near the Delmarva Peninsula. In fact, the heaviest rainfall from Florence for the DC-to-Philly corridor may actually come next Tuesday or Wednesday as it finally exits off the east coast.
Benchmark Carolina hurricanes: Hazel, 1954; Hugo, 1989
It is certainly not uncommon for the Carolinas to be hit by hurricanes and the two benchmark storms are probably Hazel (October 1954) and Hugo (September 1989) - both of which were category 4 storms at landfall. Hurricane Hazel, the strongest hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina, actually moved right near the North/South Carolina border region – perhaps quite similar to where Florence may go. It then pushed off to the north and was actually near Washington, D.C. just several hours later. It formed over the eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands on September 9, 1989.
Hurricane Hugo was a “Cape Verde” type of Atlantic Basin tropical storm with its origin over Africa. It moved thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, rapidly strengthening to briefly attain Category 5 hurricane strength on its journey. Hurricane Hugo slammed into South Carolina from the southeast as a category 4 storm and continued to move inland on a northwesterly track. Neither of these two benchmark hurricanes stalled out or slowed down dramatically as Florence is likely to do along the Carolina coastline.
Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Extended video discussion: